November 3

Indian Residential Schools’ Impact on Canadian Education

I’ll admit, History was not one of my favourite subjects growing up. The way it was taught felt like stories rather than realities. The focus was on devastating harms committed over 50 years ago in countries that seemed to be on the other side of the world. The approach was “this is what happened and this is why we should never do it again”. But what about the devastating harms that occurred right in our own backyards? Why aren’t those topics at the forefront of our history classes? As Canadian’s, should there be a larger focus on being taught information that has a personal connection to each and every one of us, which may even lead us to work towards uniting everyone in our country?

We Were Children
The video We Were Children shares the harsh realities of residential schools in Canada:

“Beginning in the late 1850’s, over 150,000 Aboriginal children were legally forced to attend Indian residential schools in Canada. The schools were part of a wider program of assimilation designed to integrate the Aboriginal population into “Canadian society.” At their peak in the 1950’s, there were 80 Indian Residential schools across the country. Today there are over 80,000 Indian Residential school survivors. The last Indian Residential school closed in 1996” (We Were Children, 2012).

Decolonizing EducationThere was so much pain suffered by First Nations, Inuit, and Metis (FNIM) peoples in our country, and yet teachers and the government gloss over or skip altogether the realities of our country’s past. This paints a picture of continual denial, neglecting to incorporate these lessons into our so-called perfect Eurocentric education approach. As Battiste outlines in her book Decolonizing Education:

“Eurocentric education policies and attempts at assimilation have contributed to major global losses in Indigenous languages and knowledge, and to persistent poverty among Indigenous peoples” (page 25).

The difficult part for the teacher is deciding how to address the issue and the pain of what happened, without turning it into just another history lesson routed in this Eurocentric framework. How do we address this important part of our country’s heritage without placing all FNIM students on a pedestal? What is the best way to present this topic so that students can become aware, learn from the mistakes of the people before us, and use this knowledge to make the world a safer, more inclusive place?

I believe that as more and more people accept the reality of what happened to FNIM people and as education policy adopts a restorative approach to fully including these students in our education, we can begin to heal as a population. The importance of this topic is not to simply teach students, but to make them think and feel. Ayers states:

Ayers
As Prime Minister Harper admitted in the public apology to First Nations individuals, the residential school system, unfortunately, was very effective in its goal of destroying the Indian in the child. It’s time to celebrate First Nations history, culture, language, ceremony, and worldviews. By incorporating this knowledge consistently throughout the Canadian curriculum, we will not only ensure increased academic success for indigenous students’, but we will also education all students to love their neighbour and cherish our differences.

October 20

Stop, COLLABORATE, and Listen

Collaboration
I know of way too many teachers to come to school in the morning, close their door, attend to their students, and leave at the end of the day. This isolation is a harsh reality for many teachers in the profession. While some may view this trend as demonstrating full attention to students, this may not be the most beneficial thing for their learning. It is very important that teachers learn to adopt an “open door policy” when it comes to collaborating with their teaching peers.

As someone who loves collaborating with others, it seems like a daunting task to block out other teacher’s ideas and focus on what I am doing. Not to mention, it may not be the most beneficial thing for my students. As Cooper suggests:

“With so little planning time available and so much vital work to be accomplished, we must harness the power of web technology to ‘work smarter, not harder’” (page 233).

Just as the web is a great resource to improve our teaching practice, other teachers in our school are a direct resource that we can use to our, and our student’s, advantage. I think it’s imperative that teachers have a consistent time and place where they can get together with their colleagues to talk and collaborate on ideas. This is a time to talk about what’s working and what isn’t working, gather ideas on what to do with the student that just won’t do anything, vent frustrations, and perhaps even split the workload!

Collaboration2Especially as someone who is currently a teacher candidate, collaboration is key. I like to hear innovated ideas that other teachers have implemented to improve learning for their students. Unfortunately, much of the time teachers have to collaborate is during their lunch periods. If teachers don’t reach out to one another to collaborate, there may never be the opportunity to learn from one another, which brings us back to the “show up, teacher, go home” trend.

Ideally, there would be some kind of system that can be put in place to make collaboration feasible and encouraged among teachers. This can be with teachers of the same subject, same grade level, or teachers who have worked with the same students before. Additionally, Cooper speaks of the importance to collaborate with all kinds of teachers:

“While it’s natural to collaborate with a colleague who teaches the same course, it can be just as valuable to work with a teacher in a different department” (page 238).

When teachers collaborate, teaching practices improve, teacher performance increases, and student receive a well-rounded education. Seems like the right approach to me…

Collaboration3

January 8

Male Teachers

The shortage of male teachers is a topic that has been heavily discussed in the education system, especially in the last few years. I constantly hear that the job market is flooded with teachers looking for employment, and that it will be a few years until many will be able to find work. Yet, when I tell people that I am pursuing my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher, they reply with, “You’re male and you want to teach at the elementary level – You won’t have any trouble finding a job!”

If this is the case, I often wonder where all the male teachers are? Do they not want to work with children? Is the salary too low? I was born with the passion of teaching, but maybe I’m a rare breed?

The image below really puts the topic of male teachers into perspective; their prevalence in schools, why the numbers are so low, and what the system can do to correct this imbalance.

Male Teachers